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Changing the PR Student’s Outlook on Email Transitions

Photo by Abby Walsh via Unsplash

Published on Oct. 3, 2022, at 6:39 p.m.
by Seth Self.

If you’re a college student, chances are you have a morning routine that looks something like the following: Wake up, check your phone immediately, and begin to scroll popular social media sites, such as Instagram and Twitter.

However, if you’re also a PR student like I am, you probably have another app in your morning rotation, too: email.

For many PR students, checking emails is a favorite pastime. And if any other PR students are like me, you can probably get attached to the way certain email sites look, feel and are structured.

Many of us who are currently in college grew up using Gmail in middle and high school. I can remember getting my school email account through Google all the way back in 2014, and subsequently using it for all correspondence and accounts until I graduated and came to college.

That’s why recent transitions of many universities from Google to Microsoft have taken some getting used to.

Just last year, The University of Alabama made the switch to Microsoft’s Outlook email service for all student email accounts. This follows a trend among universities overall; a quick Google search will show that many other universities have made similar changes, such as Elon University, Indiana University and the University of Arkansas.

Why the switch? Most universities cite Outlook’s strong security features as the primary reason. According to The University of Alabama’s official statement on the transition, Outlook offers “enhanced cybersecurity measures” to block malicious activity. Beyond security aspects, benefits offer increased collaboration with peers and cloud storage.

Most transitions are not limited to just email, either; moving from Gmail to Outlook also means switching from Google Workspace to Microsoft Office 365. This switch means utilizing Microsoft OneDrive instead of Google Drive and Microsoft’s calendar instead of Google’s.

Photo by Abby Walsh via Unsplash

Numerous years of using the same software can lead to intense brand loyalty among users, a sentiment shared by many PR students in conversation. While this move has required some adjustments, it will likely prove beneficial for PR students going forward as we move into the workforce.

After all, universities are not the only ones moving to Outlook; companies and organizations across all industries and fields are doing the same. HD Insights has tracked nearly 688,000 companies using Outlook, compared to just over 6,000 for Gmail.

As public relations practitioners, we will likely work in fast-paced environments that operate on Microsoft Outlook and Office 365. Learning the necessary skills to be fluent in software programs such as Outlook, OneDrive and other Microsoft functions such as Teams — while still in college — will allow us to enter the PR field better equipped to do our jobs and practice public relations efficiently.

Though switching to Outlook has challenged our routines in the short term, we as PR students may find ourselves thankful for it with time. Just as our emails changed, perhaps it’s time for our outlook on such transitions to change, as well.

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